Famous guitar maker Fender along with four leading keyboard manufacturers have found themselves at the centre of a price-fixing investigation after “dawn raids” were carried out at their British offices.
The companies have not been officially named but sources at The Sunday Telegraph understand that Yamaha, one of the biggest musical instrument manufacturers in the world, Roland, Korg, Casio and Fender have all been targeted by staff from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The CMA investigation has been launched under Chapter I of the CA98 and Article 101 of the TFEU into suspected breaches of competition law by various parties. The investigations relate to “alleged” anti-competitive agreements and/or concerted practices in relation to musical instruments and equipment.
So the emphasis there is on “alleged” at the moment. The investigation is at an early stage and no assumptions should be made that competition law has been infringed. The CMA has not reached a view on whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections to any of the parties under investigation.
The investigations began last month when CMA officers arrived unannounced at the five offices. CMA officers can enter a business without a warrant and demand documents.
It is not yet clear what triggered the investigations but one music industry insider has indicated that it might be linked to a complaint from Germany. The inquiry is thought to be focusing on whether any attempt has been made to manipulate sales of musical instruments and pro-audio equipment. This includes price fixing or controlled sales to specific areas of the country.
A music industry source said that up to 10 CMA staff may have visited the offices of the music manufacturers. Some searches were carried out over a period of four days.
It is also understood that 14 music stores have been asked for details of their dealings with the companies under investigation. NONE of these stores are under any suspicion of wrong doing and are merely helping the CMA with their enquiries.
The enquiries are at an early stage and it has not yet been decided if the CMA will open an official investigation.
Fender, Yamaha, KORG, Casio and Roland have so far declined to comment.
Personally In over 40 years of buying keyboards and guitars I have never at any time felt there was any sort of price fixing going on. Yamaha, KORG, Roland, Casio and Fender have always produced great quality instruments at all price points and there is plenty of choice in the market. Of course I don’t live in this area of Germany where the complaint apparently arose from but I still do not see how there would ever be collaboration amongst these very different manufacturers to somehow “fix prices”. Obviously it is not at the retail level but more to do with wholesale prices. Still I have my doubts. Perhaps a certain retailer feels they deserve better terms and so kicked this whole thing off? Who knows?
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